MONTGOMERY, AL (RNN) – Outlanders who move to Alabama have to make a choice - which college football team are you for? Alabama or Auburn?
I'm surprised new residents aren't stopped at the state line and made to declare an allegiance (they do a similar thing here to suspected illegal immigrants, and it's state law).
Saying you don't support either team will not let you off the hook – you have to choose, and strangers will badger you in elevators until you get off on the wrong floor to flee. And then, if you pick the wrong team, you are in for a whole other kind of hell.
But now, fellow Mizzou fans, I've entered a deeper circle of purgatory, one Dante could never have imagined.
A year ago, I could wear my Missouri shorts to the gym here in my adopted home state and not get badgered by sports fans. People didn't even know what a "Mizzou" was.
Last November, when Our Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC, a man approached me as I stepped off the treadmill, and pointed at my shorts with a smirk.
"Mizzou, huh? Are you sure you're ready?"
I laughed – sure! After fighting Nebraska for years, dealing with the football factory that was Oklahoma, battling various Texas teams and loving life when we Rock-Chalk Jayhalked Kansas back across the border – I was sure we were ready.
Oh, the blissful joy of ignorance.
Before you call me out as a fair-weather fan, know that I'm a third-generation Mizzou alum. My grandfather purchased his home (where my mom grew up) near Faurot Field so he could walk to games.
When I attended school there, my grandfather and I watched games together on TV.
Missouri's style has never been flashy, and we've had to deal with getting the wrong end of the stick from time-to-time (Colorado's fifth down, anyone?) but we soldiered on, worked harder.
Gary Pinkel's no-nonsense coaching style and demeanor appealed to the Missouri "show me" spirit, which pretty much boiled down to "put up or shut up."
I'm going to be honest here. We've been shut up.
Sure, Mizzou is getting big bucks from televised games by joining the SEC, and the first few weeks of football season have given exposure to the school like never before. College football is all about money. But I miss rivalries.
I miss Oklahoma and Kansas – and being within striking distance of making a road trip. As a student (heck, even as an alum), you could hop in your car and drive to most Big 12 games in half a day.
Thanksgiving dinners across the Show Me State will be calmer this year because family members won't be jawing at each other over an upcoming game.
But I would take a yelling match and a turkey leg over the slow torture of the past few weeks, when fans of the No. 1 juggernaut Alabama have taunted my misery as Mizzou suffered serial losses.
Of course, I know, I know. This is only our first year in the new conference. Missouri is adapting its style of play, and I'll always wear black and gold on Saturday. But I still have the feeling we're going to be quiet for a long time.
You have to win for decades to attain the level of obnoxiousness that comes naturally to fans of top-tier SEC schools. Trust me, they are experts at it.
Last week we lost at home to the SEC's lifelong doormat, Vanderbilt, whose long-suffering boosters have had generations of practice in humility. Even they are mocking us, now.
I think it's going be a long, long time. Please, let basketball season hurry and get here.
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